SanDisk 'SlotMusic' Card Offers DRM-Free Music

With the help of the record industry, SanDisk is hoping to put an end to CDs and give music downloads a run for their money.

SlotMusic microSD card

SlotMusic microSD card
(click for larger image)

SanDisk on Monday introduced a flash-memory card preloaded with music free of digital rights management technology.

The SlotMusic MicroSD card, which is expected to ship to retailers in time for the holiday season, will contain MP3 music files of tunes from "top artists" from EMI Music, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. SlotMusic cards will first be available at offline and online stores throughout the United States, including Best Buy and Wal-Mart. The devices will ship to European retailers later. Pricing and the list of albums available will be released closer to the holiday shopping season.

The devices will be playable in microSD-enabled mobile phones and MP3 players. No passwords will be needed and the music will be DRM free, according to SanDisk. The cards appear aimed more toward mobile phones, which ship in far larger quantities globally than MP3 players.

The 1-GB cards will ship with a USB sleeve that enables buyers to plug the devices into USB ports on Windows, Linux, or Mac computers. Music on the cards is played back at up to 320 Kbps. Along with the tunes, the devices will contain liner notes, album art, videos, and other creative content. Users also will be able to add their own content to the card, which SanDisk is offering as an alternative to CDs and music downloads.

It remains to be seen whether people will take to carrying around music-filled mini-cards. Music downloads have become a major distribution channel. Apple's iTunes music store, for example, has outsold all other retailers, both online and offline, including Wal-Mart. In addition, several online retailers, including and Rhapsody, which is owned by RealNetworks and MTV Networks, sell DRM-free MP3s.

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